Nov 09

How Does Football Manager Live Compare To Other MMOs? (Part 2)


Firstly, from an article on BrightHub:

Where Did Warhammer Go Wrong” caught my attention. The main point being the obvious, [MMOs] need enough gameplay variety to entertain hundreds of thousands or millions of different people. They must be amused enough to maintain a subscription.”

It’s funny that the same opinions voiced in the Football Manager Live official forums are voiced as a general statement elsewhere. The newest match engine is now in FMLive. Now people are turning their heads to changing their online experience to keep them online for longer. Keep people interested so that they stay on for longer will result in people playing more Human vs Human matches.

CPU team introduction goes a step in the right direction in v1.3. Challenges are being tested in Beta and youth Academies are on the
cards for v1.4. Hopefully these sort of additions will come fast enough to vary the online experience.

“How you can tell when an MMORPG is doing poorly: the way to tell if Warhammer is doing well is to check a few months after release and see if they are adding servers. If they were removing or merging servers, that would mean the game was doing poorly. Since its release, Warhammer has had at least 4 major server merges. 63 servers have been shut down, leaving WAR with only 9 active servers. Some players are now playing on their 5th server. This is extremely disruptive to the population and culture of each server. On a game based around PvP (RvR), they are forced to merge servers. You can’t have PvP/RvR if you don’t have enough players around to fight.”

This is a very similar argument currently in the Football Manager Live official forums, however, it is not on the same scale. The question about opening new game worlds is met with numbers of passionate positives and negatives. Similarly with game world merges. The FMLive team of Sports Interactive and Sega have plans in the pipeline which we’re all looking forward to but it would be a sad day to see a GW close so I hope the plans are revealed soon.

Gamasutra writes about Warhammers Biggest Mistakes along the same theme:

“There’s a big difference between easy play and ease of use. It’s important to have ease of use, and it’s also important to hit the right balance between easy gameplay, challenging gameplay, and [being] too difficult. We thought we hit that, but Warhammer, in PVE, in the beginning, is too easy. It doesn’t make you thrilled to do it.”

I think that Football Manager Live can be difficult to settle into (due to differences between the Football Manager series and FML), but once you have settled into FML (I think this takes a couple of days for most) then I consider it is easy to play averagely. I’ve done this for almost two years now. It does however take dedication and time to build up a top ranking side and stay there. I don’t think it’s too difficult to play, however infuriating FML can be. So with respect to comparisons with Warhammer, it’s not the same.

“We all talk about online gaming as ’social’. It’s a thing we’d call probably foundationally the most important thing about these games. It’s fun to play these games with friends.”

The one thing that Football Manager Live is: sociable. Yeah sure, there are mugs in every game world as in life, but in the main everyone that logs in frequently is not just there to play a few games and log off. Most like to get involved in the community, express opinions or form rivalries.

“One [good feature] was public quests, a system in which players who enter an area can elect to join a large quest in progress.”

It’s been discussed that v1.4 is in beta test at the moment, which includes the challenge system. Currently the challenges are pre-set by Sports Interactive and are all solo play including one or more CPU teams. It would be interesting to see how two clubs could take on CPU teams maybe in the future. Would this be considered cheating if you had to throw a match to complete the challenge?

Having “clans” I think is similar to football associations, or at least should be. I’d welcome more complicated FA vs FA competitions or allowing clans to form. Something along the lines of the Streetfighter group mode would be ace.

Basically a challenge system that was more extroverted is currently missing from v1.3 but is better with v1.4 due to the news items that are produced and appears on the home pages of friends. In my opinion this is something that is missing and makes the challenge system, in current forum, not appealing to some.

“Open grouping, which allows players to slide in and out of groups, was another major advantage. “One of the things we wanted to do was break down the barrier of people asking to group. We had a discussion after discussion after discussion on building a system where people could just slide into groups without asking permission, and we came up with this open grouping system, and it’s been super successful for us.” Warhammer’s realm versus realm play, which pits factions against factions, makes this system essential, says Hickman. “People want to be with people. There is safety in numbers.”

I think this relates directly to movement between football associations. With the new way that FA hoppers are now welcomed in rather than punished for moving, I feel that this is a step in the direction made by Warhammer.

Whether this could also apply to game worlds also is probably a discussion point (i.e. you can move your team around between GWs in off-seasons). I’d like this to exist but would need to consider the negative affects such as some game worlds being left empty and FA structures. There was once a hint that in the future teams could go “on tour” to other game worldss. I’d love to hear how this would work! I talk about this again later.

“I think we do some lip service to each [aspect of the service model] but you have to embrace the fact that your game is not just launching a product. Twenty percent of the work you will do on a game happens before you go live – the rest will happen after launch.”

Here is where I think Football Manager Live is bang on right and why I think that in the eyes of some, FML will always be a work-in-progress beta, when in fact it’s a model that appears to be in use across successful MMOs, from the many articles I’ve subjected myself to. This brings me onto me discovering “why” Football Manager Live was rolled out small and “why” the marketing has been essentially word of mouth…

Ten Ton Hammer says “MMOs are traditionally a very long-term time investment and you tend to be more selective in your decision on what you might end up spending years on. There is nothing wrong with starting out with a smaller team, targeting a very specific audience and growing the game organically with your playerbase.”

I think that this is the essence of what Sports Interactive and Sega are doing. By starting with the “soft launch” we’ve really seen Football Manager Live grow outwards.

“You might say that an MMO is only as good as its marketing strategy – even the most solid, entertaining game can’t become a success if no one has heard of it. Hi-Rez Studios relies on word spreading from gamer to gamer. For Global Agenda our favorite form of marketing is word of mouth from people who have actually played the game.”

I think that this is one of the points that comes up in the forums on a regular basis. My thought has always been to advertise a good thing to keep it popular, but it does look like this word-of-mouth and starting small approach is a proven way to evolve the game over time.

“EVE Online, however, is an established game, so CCP’s current marketing employs a recruitment strategy that relies on existing players. Each of our customers is valuable to us, and if we can give a person free game time for finding a buddy to play with, or an affiliate partner or fansite some money for each person they refer to us who becomes a customer, it creates a very organic growth of friend networks. It’s a mutual partnership where we reward each other for mutual benefit. Later, you can supplement that kind of program with banner ads through CPA deals, AdWords, email re-activation campaigns, newsletters and other offers to let people come back and try out for free after an expansion is out.”

We’ve seen affiliate programmes and recommend a friend schemes. We’ve also seen free trials. I understand that email re-activation campaigns are ongoing and newsletters are sent out when there is major news to anyone from FML’s present or past. The difference here is that trials in Football Manager Live are pushed continually and not just after an update. I’m not sure if this is better or not. I wonder what difference a Facebook application would make virally.

My point learnt from this article is that FMLive is not rolling out slowly on the basis of it being a beta that people are paying for. Was
a refreshing find. I wanted to know what would happen should a game follow the alternative route that I thought was the “norm” and found two articles, both covering a game called Tabula Rasa. Brighthub asks why the game failed which talks about initial lag on startup (which has been forgotten for most in older GWs now) and diversification of gameplay modes which brings up the points made before.

In the next article, I highlight some of the ways Football Manager Live has similar parallels to other failed MMOs… but fortunately, they’re not all game-breaking issues and the comparisons may not actually be warranted. Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

Written By Rik Stewart
A long-standing beta tester for FM Live, Rik is a moderator on GW Hoddle and responsible for their game world blog at
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